Detroit Lions select LB Malcolm Rodriguez in sixth round of NFL Draft

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

Allen Park — The Lions added another defensive piece to the mix on the third and final day of the NFL Draft.

After moving back seven spots in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday — and receiving a seventh-round selection, No. 237, in the process — the Lions used their first pick of the sixth round, No. 188 overall, on Oklahoma State linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez.

At 5-foot-11 and 232 pounds, Rodriguez is on the smaller side at his position, but it didn't prevent him from being highly productive with the Cowboys and racking up All-Big 12 honors in three straight seasons.

Malcolm Rodriguez

While he might not possess the prototypical build for a linebacker, he has no shortage of athleticism and posted some high-end testing numbers, like a 4.52 40-yard dash.

"There's a lot of factors that you can look at. There's a lot of variables that play into that," Lions general manager Brad Holmes said, when asked about taking defenders who are considered undersized at their spots. "If a guy is a little more deficient in one area — his height or bulk or arm length — how does he compensate in other areas?

"Does his explosiveness compensate for what he might be deficient of in this area? Does his motor compensate? Do his instincts compensate for a lack of foot speed here or there? We look at all those factors because there are some guys that have all the size in the world and they're not very good football players. … We stick to trying to find football players. I think that's what we found."

This past season, Rodriguez was seemingly around the ball all the time and earned All-American honors after racking up 76 solo tackles and 130 total tackles, marks that ranked No. 6 and No. 7, respectively, among all FBS players. He also notched 16 tackles for loss, 10 QB hurries, five pass breakups, four forced fumbles and three sacks in 14 starts.

He recorded at least six tackles in 40 of his 50 games played from 2018-21, which was the most such contests among all FBS players during that time frame, and made 397 total tackles over that four-year span.

In addition to his productivity, he was extremely durable. He made 48 starts in his career, which was tied for the third-most in program history, and set an Oklahoma State record with 60 games played, all of which were played consecutively.

"Rodriguez carries a compact, sawed-off frame that is muscular but stubby," NFL.com analyst Lance Zeirlein wrote. "His transition from read to flow is seamless, with some of the cleanest GPS to the football in this draft. He's straight-line fast but lacks the looseness for sudden lateral bursts, which could limit his range as an NFL tackler. He can play on third downs but is very average in that department. Rodriguez has been a career gap-hog, finding and finishing runners who come his way."

Rodriguez was a state champion wrestler and a dual-threat quarterback in high school, leading his team to three consecutive state titles in Oklahoma. He spent his first two seasons at Oklahoma State at safety before switching to linebacker, where he thrived.

"I do think that Malcolm can play our inside linebacker spot," Holmes said. "He's a high-caliber special teams player, first and foremost. I do think he'll be able to come in and compete at one of the inside linebacker spots."

Meet Malcolm Rodriguez

Position: Linebacker

College: Oklahoma State

Height/weight: 5-foot-11/232 pounds

Round/overall: 6/188

Notable stats: He led the Cowboys in total tackles for three straight seasons, finishing with 103 in 2019, 82 in 2020 and 123 in 2021, and is the fourth player in program history to reach 400 career tackles.

Analysis: What Rodriguez lacks in some of his physical measurements — like his height and arm length — he makes up for with his ability to quickly read, react and make plays, which is something Detroit’s linebackers struggled to do last season. He projects to be a solid backup — GM Brad Holmes said he’ll compete for an inside linebacker spot — and a core special teams player.

jhawkins@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @jamesbhawkins